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Leg Workouts
By Frank Melfa of bodybuildingbyfrank.com

Regardless of whether your goal is to build or tone your legs, stick with the exercises that are most effective. Squats, Leg Press, Hack Squats, and Traveling lunges in my opinion are the best for the thighs. Leg extensions are good for warming up and for supersetting for extra intensity. Lying Leg Curls, Standing Leg Curls (one at a time) and stiff leg dead lifts (done properly) can be used to train your hamstrings. You can choose from the following workouts that suit you best. If you are feeling adventurous, then try them all! If you really want to train quads with a crazy intensity, then train hamstrings on a different day with another body part. Save these workouts for quads only.

I have also included separate hamstrings and calf workouts. Depending on your goals and quad training intensity, you can work your hamstrings and calve in the same workout or with other bodyparts.

Leg Workout One: STANDARD/BEGINNER

Exercise Sets Reps
Squats 4 12-15
Leg Press 4 12-15
Hack Squat 4 12-15
Lying Leg Curl 5 12-15

This is a pretty basic leg workout. By no means easy! Do every set for at least 12 reps, but try to get 15 reps on every set working through a full range of motion. Don’t be a hero. Go all the way down during all your exercises especially leg presses! Loading up the leg press with 1000 pounds and going down 3 inches isn’t going to build anything but your ego!

Leg Workout Two: MORE ADVANCED

Exercise Sets Reps
Squats 4 12-15 supersetting 4 sets of leg extensions.
Leg press 4 12-15 stripping the weight on the 4th set!
Hack Squat 4 12-15 stripping the weight on the 4th sets!
Stationary Lunges 4 12 each leg alternating.

Start with a set of squats and immediately do a set of leg extensions using a fairly, light, weight. Repeat this 3 more times. Don’t rest too long between sets. No more that 2 minutes. Suck it up. I know it’s hard! Do three sets of leg presses. On the forth set, be prepared to have someone strip the weight. For example, If you have 5 (45 pound) plates on each side, do your forth set for about 12 reps, then have someone take one 45 pound plate off each side and do 6 more reps, then have someone take another 45 pound plate off each side and do another 6 and then finally strip one more time for your last 6 reps.

Do the same for hack squats. Then finish with 4 sets of stationary lunges. You’re not ready to travel across the gym floor with a bar on your back just yet.

Leg Workout Three: HIGH INTENSITY

Exercise Sets Reps
Front Squat on Smith Machine 4 12-15 Superset with leg extension
Hack Squat 4 15 reps every set. No less than 15 reps.
Strip the last set. Use small plates such as 25

Leg Press 4 12 Strip the last set.
Travel Lunges 3 Short bar with weight on each side

First find the Smith Machine. You might want to use a cushion that raps around the bar so you don’t hurt your shoulders (we used to call this the "pussy cushion"). Hope this doesn’t offend anyone. Anyway, do a set of Smith Machine Front Squats with the bar resting on the top of your shoulders. When finished with 12-15 reps, immediately do a set of leg extensions for 10 reps. Repeat 3 more times.

Do 4 sets of hack squats for 15 reps every set. 14 reps won’t count. 15 means 15! With good form!! On the last set, strip the weight at least twice. Use 25-pound plates (or smaller depending on your size and strength). So if you start with 3, 25-pound plates on each side, keep stripping until there is only one 25-pound plate left on each side. Try to do 6 reps on the strips sets.

Finally, find a short bar, or use the curl bar to do your Traveling Lunges. Start with some weight on the bar. I usually use about 2, 25-pound plates on each side. Do what you can handle, but be sure to use good form. Make room for a path across the gym floor. Try to step at least 5 steps on each leg and be sure to alternate as you go. Turn around and immediately go back, no resting. Your quads better be sore after any on these workouts. If not, you are CHEATING!!! Remember, you are only cheating your legs. Bet you thought I was going to write "cheating yourself." Anyway do it right.

Hamstrings Workout One

Exercise Sets Reps
Lying Leg Curl 4 10
Stiff-leg Dead Lift 4 10
Standing Leg Curl 4 each side 10 each side

Hamstring Workout Two

Exercise Sets Reps
Stiff-leg Dead Lift 4 10 superset with standing leg curl 10 reps each side
Lying Leg Curl 5 10

Stiff-leg Deadlifts: I have to admit, I performed this exercise religiously during precontest training. But unless you really know how to properly perform this exercise, you greatly risk injuring your lower back. Since I don’t compete anymore, I rely on lying and standing leg curls for developing my hamstrings.

But if you are going to perform this exercise, do it right!

Take shoulder width grip. I like grabbing the bar with one hand over the bar and the other hand under the bar. This grip helps me keep the bar close to my body as I lower and raise it.

The initial movement is to stick your buttocks out, with locked knees and slight arch to your back. These two movements alone should immediately stress the hamstrings. From here, slowly bend over keeping your legs locked and slowly lowering the bar with your arms straight. Focus on lowering the bar through your legs rather than straight down. Keep the bar as close to your body as possible until you reach the bottom where you will move the bar away from your body for an extra stretch.

Once you have completely stretched your hamstrings, slowly start straightening your body without bending your knees, keeping the bar close to your body as possible. If you want to see great photos of how I properly perform all my exercises, then check out my book: Bodybuilding A Realistic Approach. Amazon.com is selling it 20% off.

Calves

Calf Workout One

Exercise Sets Reps
Standing Calf Raise 4 15
Seated Calf Raise 4 15
One leg Calf Raise (on
step holding dumbbell)
4 each side 15 each side

Calf Workout Two

Exercise Sets Reps
Calf Raise on leg press 4 15
Seated Calf Raise 4 15
One Leg Calf Raise
(On Standing machine)
4 each side 15 each side

Calf Workout Three

Exercise Sets Reps
Donkey Calf Raise 4 15
Seated Calf Raise 4 15
Standing Calf Raise 4 15

Standing Calf Raise: Most gyms provide a standing calf raise machine. Position the balls of your feet only on the platform provided. This will allow you to fully lower your heels. Once your calves are fully stretched then rise up on your toes to finish the rep. You can vary your feet position with all calf raise exercises. You can point your toes straight, out, or in. You should feel more of the inside part of your calves when you point your toes out and the outside part of your calves when you point your toes in.

  • Be sure your knees are locked throughout the entire range of motion.
  • Perform reps slowly.
  • Pause at the bottom when your calves are fully stretched.
  • Squeeze at the top.

Standing Calf Raise using a dumbbell: If you don’t have access to a calf machine, or if you want to work your calves at home, you can use a dumbbell and perform calf raises on a step or anything that will allow you to lower and raise your heels. You will also need to hold on to something sturdy. If you are performing these at home on a staircase, you can simply hold on to the banister. Remember, since your legs are locked, you are working your gastrocnemius. So don’t bend your knees.

You can work one leg at a time if you want to use a dumbbell for extra resistance. If you start with the left leg first, hold a dumbbell in your left hand and hold on to something with your right hand as shown in the photo. Position the ball of your left foot on the step or platform. Your right leg can just hang nearby. From here, slowly lower the ball of your left foot, pause, and then rise up on your toes squeezing at the top.

Seated Calf Raise: The main difference between this exercise and the standing calf raise is that your knees are bent at 90-degree angles. The form is the same with standing calf raises. Just be sure to position only the ball of your feet on the platform and lower your heels all the way down. On the way up, I like to lean in rather than lean back. This puts more pressure on the calves.

Donkey Calf Raise: Donkey calf raises tie in the gastrocnemius and the soleus because now your knees are only slightly bent. If you don’t have access to the donkey calf raise machine, you will need to go back to the old fashion donkey calf raise. That is with someone sitting on your lower back. In that case, you will need a step and something sturdy to lean against. The important thing to remember during this exercise is to maintain the slight bend in your knees throughout the entire range of motion

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